Since switching to Mac, I've abandoned almost all of the programs that I used on Windows with the exception of Microsoft Word. This is mainly because Word is so widely used by others that I've effectively been "forced" to install it even though I hardly use any other application in Microsoft Office. This is annoying for two main reasons: Office is expensive and takes up over 500MB of my hard drive. However, there are a selection of free and highly accomplished alternative word processing applications for Mac, some of which not only handle Word documents, but that you may even find improve on Word itself.
Part of OpenOffice which is a cross platform multilingual Java based office suite that's designed as a free replacement for Microsoft Office. Writer is the word processing component and allows you to open and edit Word documents (including .docx), export to PDF and even use it as a WYSIWYG editor for creating web pages. Some prefer to install NeoOffice which has taken OpenOffice and customised the interface for Mac.
A better solution than Writer for those working on slower Macs. Like Writer, it allows you to open Word documents, save to .doc format and export to both PDF and HTML. The disadvantage is that it doesn't support .docx format and may sometimes alter the formatting in Word documents so that they appear a bit messed-up. For those working on older Macs though, it's an excellent alternative.
Designed specifically for Macs, Bean is based on Cocoa so it looks great. Bean can also open and save in Word format but note that it can't handle footnotes, images or pre-defined styles and is only partially compatible with Word's file formats. In addition, it doesn't work with .docx, hyperlinks are imported as text and exporting of tables doesn't work well. However, in terms of speed and interface, Bean is excellent.
Google's online office suite is handy replacement for opening and saving Word documents. All you need is a Google account to get started. Google Drive features a clean interface, autosave feature, spell check and it can save your documents either to your account, publish it as a web page or automatically e-mail it as a Word document. You can even invite others to collaborate with you on a document.
The ThinkFree Office suite isn't free but it's online counterpart ThinkFree Online is. It only allows you to open and view any kind of Office document, including .doc and .docx and then embed, convert, share, upload or search them for free. You can perform basic functions for free but you have to sign-up for extra features such as the offline file management "Power Tool".
Are there other free word processing applications that you use on your Mac? Let us know in the comments below!